How to Develop a Good Research Hypothesis

A research hypothesis is an educated guess, something like ‘If (I do this), then (this) will happen.’ A hypothesis is a critical part of going about a scientific investigation. A research hypothesis could be based on a theory or a logical reasoning to assume what could happen if certain factors are put in some certain ways. It is a way of proposing what we think will happen in a certain situation before really experimenting it. Of course the guess is not going to be just any kind of guess, it is a guess that is informed, that is you are assuming based on what you know, and then you set out to experiment, to either confirm or debunk the guess. It could be something like… ‘If I put the plant in a dark room, it will die’. You are assuming based on your understanding of the fact that plants need sunlight to produce their food (that’s your prior knowledge) that making light unavailable to a plant will make it die. You then go ahead to test and see if your hypothesis is true or false. It is important to know that a hypothesis must be:

Testable

It should be an educated guess that can be tested. Scientifically, there must be methods that can be used to test the hypothesis, so that if it is indeed true, scientific evidence can be provided and proven through the experiment, and if it indeed false, adequate evidence can be available to prove that. If you need to do the experiment a number of times, your experiment should be such as can be repeated reliably.

Logical

It should not just be a guess out of the blues, it has to be based on some theories existing before, logical reasoning or observation. If it has no scientific back up in terms of what has been observed before or logical scientific reasoning, then it is not a hypothesis.

Positive

Your hypothesis should not be in the negative. When carrying out scientific investigation, it is to prove that something exists, the experiment may go on to show that the thing does not exist, but when forming your hypothesis, let it be in the positive about the fact that an effect or phenomena exist. Nature of science is to make assumption probably that something is not in existence and then seek evidence to prove that wrong, to prove that the thing really does exist. So word your hypothesis positively, not in the negative.

Tips to be conscious of when forming your hypothesis are as follow:

Ensure Your Hypothesis is Based on Your Research

Make sure the guess you are forming is relevant to your research area, don’t form a hypothesis that is irrelevant to your study. That is the more reason you should read and do enough background research before formulating your hypothesis.

Variables

Ensure that your hypothesis consists both the independent variable and the dependent variable. The independent variable is the variable that the researcher can change which will affect another variable that is dependent on it. The independent variable is like the cause, while the dependent variable is the effect. Like in the example given that ‘If I put the plant in a dark room, it will die’, the independent variable is the light that is altered by putting the plant in a dark place, while the variable that depends on that independent variable is the death of the plant.

Also, be careful to state your variables in terms that can easily be understood, and let it be clear which variable is affecting which one and what the effect will be. That is let the independent variable be clear and the dependent variable clearly identifiable as well.

Clarity

Make your whole hypothesis statement as clear as possible. Don’t be vague or unnecessarily complicated, the right person reading your hypothesis should find it easy to tell what your guess is. Don’t use complex language.

Statement

Understand that your hypothesis is not a question. Of course you start by asking a question, but that question is serving to point in what direction you wish your research, hypothesis and experiment to focus. You are to eventually form a statement in the form of an educated, informed guess, of what you think your result should be. Therefore ensure your hypothesis is not in a questioning form but as a statement.

Research

Don’t undermine the importance of carrying out good research concerning your topic of interest while trying to formulate your hypothesis. This will go a long way in helping you discover the bridges that have been crossed already, the discoveries and findings made, previous observations and knowledge in that area, and with that, when you eventually formulate your hypothesis, it will be a relevant one, because you would have discovered the knowledge gap from the background researches you’ve made.

Scope

Don’t go for a hypothesis that will demand that you carry out more experiments than you can do. Choose a hypothesis within the scope of what you can research about. You therefore need to know what your hypothesis will demand so you don’t put in your hands more than you can handle.

In forming a good hypothesis, these are the steps to follow:

Create a Question

Ask a question you want to research on and provide answer to. It should be a relevant question that you can answer within the scope of the research project you want to carry out. This is where creating your hypothesis starts. For example ‘Are employees in the city able to save more money?’

Do Background Research

Carry out a good background research about the topic. Gather as much information as possible so as to have enough knowledge to be able to make an educated guess. Read previous works in that field, read up the findings and the gaps in the studies, you are likely to be able to deduce good questions from the previous researches. Actually this kind of reading should even be done even before asking your question, so you can be able to ask an informed question based on past findings and gaps in the previous works. But after you have asked your question, you should also do research to deduce educated assumptions concerning what you think the result of your experiment should be.

Create Your Hypothesis

After you have done a good background research and you are well aware of the knowledge in that line of research, you should go ahead and form your hypothesis. For example ‘Employees in cities are able to save more money’. Ensure that your hypothesis is such that can be tested and is falsifiable, that is if it is not true, there will be a scientific way to prove it wrong.

Form a NULL Hypothesis

You will also have to create a null hypothesis where you will state that the variables in the hypothesis are not connected, that is, they don’t affect each other. Something like ‘Where employees work have no effect on how much money they save’.

Be sure to have a good and strong hypothesis for your research work as this is critical to your research. Take cognisance of the necessary things for a proper hypothesis.